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On average, the typical garbage disposal lasts around 10 years. However, the lifespan of this useful kitchen device depends a lot on how you treat it. Some people may need to replace theirs every couple of years while others end up using the same one for decades. To make sure you get the most possible use out of your garbage disposal, follow these usage and maintenance tips!

Always Run Water When Using Your Garbage Disposal

Garbage disposal is designed to be operated while the water is running. If you try and run it without water, it is harder for the machine to push food through the system. This can cause overheating or result in parts that break down more quickly. Another problem is that grinding food without water leads to a thick, dry sludge that can still clog your pipes very thoroughly.

Therefore, it is typically a good idea to turn on your faucet, add the food you want to grind and then let the water keep running for about 10 seconds afterward. This provides enough liquid to keep things moving through your drainage system.

Many people assume that hot water is best because it helps liquefy grease. However, this can actually lead to major issues. When grease is in liquid form, it is easier for it to coat the blades of your disposal. Then the grease solidifies as it cools, leading to gunk that can clog your sink over time. It is best to simply avoid putting anything through the disposal that has high amounts of grease or fat. However, it can be hard to avoid since almost all foods have at least a little fat. Therefore, you should keep the water cold, so it helps the solid fat get chopped up more thoroughly.

Know What Foods to Avoid

Garbage disposals might be extremely tough, but even they cannot handle certain types of food. Anything hard should be avoided. Extra hard items may dull your blades or even get wedged between them, blocking your garbage disposal entirely. A good rule of thumb is that if you cannot cut it with a steak knife, it should not be going down your drain. Examples of foods that are too hard to run through your garbage disposal include:

  • Bones
  • Popcorn kernels
  • Cherry seeds
  • Peach pits

Another thing to keep an eye out for is anything that is fibrous, starchy or extremely small. Fibrous materials like onion peels, celery, banana peels, eggshells and corn husks can get wrapped around the components of your garbage disposal, eventually forcing it to grind to a halt. Starchy foods like bread or potatoes can cause problems when ground in large quantities as well. These starchy materials can form a gluey paste in your disposal that gums up the works. Extremely tiny things like coffee grounds might seem harmless, but the problem is that they can end up slipping by the blades on your garbage disposal. Though each one is small on its own, they can then clump together in a paste that ultimately ends up clogging your drain.

Handle Clogs With the Right Tools

If you have a clog, pouring a bunch of bleach or drain cleaner down the sink is a bad idea. The main danger is that these can linger on your garbage disposal after they eat away the clog. Then the next time you flip it on, there is a risk of caustic chemicals flying into your face when you run the disposal. Furthermore, regular use of drain cleaners can end up damaging certain types of pipes. To keep you and your drainage system safe, removing clogs manually is a better idea. Start by turning off the machine by cutting power to your kitchen or unplugging the unit. Then use a flashlight to look inside and locate the clog.

A word of caution when dealing with clogs: never use your bare hands even if your machine is completely powered down. Tension can build up from something wound around the blades, and when you remove the thing blocking the blades, there is a risk of them springing forward a bit. If you are not careful, this can cause serious damage. Therefore, it is a good idea to use pliers or tweezers whenever you need to reach down into your garbage disposal. Some garbage disposals may even come with a wrench or other special tool for handling clogs in your machine.

Run Your Disposal Every Couple Days

Did you know it is actually possible to damage your garbage disposal just by ignoring it? If your disposal sits still for weeks at a time, you can run into some issues. The main potential problem is that some parts of the mechanism may rust from lack of usage. Another potential issue caused by not running your garbage disposal is that food from the last time you ran it might get stuck to the sides of the appliance. In addition to causing weird smells, this dried food may eventually result in some clogs.

Therefore, even when you do not have food to dispose of, it can be a good idea to still run your garbage disposal every couple of days. You do not need to send food through it, but just run it with some cold water for a couple of seconds. This will help clear out any lingering debris and ensure that everything continues to work properly. If you have trouble remembering to do this, consider setting a smartphone reminder to make things easier.

Clean and Sharpen Disposal Blades Regularly

Your garbage disposal is hard to access, so it does not get scrubbed out as regularly as your sink. While running water can help a little, you need to take the time to do a deep clean a little more frequently. Most garbage disposal experts recommend cleaning your disposal every two to four weeks. This helps to remove buildup that could otherwise slow down your machine. It also has the advantage of removing any stinky material, so your kitchen smells as fresh as possible.

An all-natural way of cleaning your garbage disposal is adding a cup of rock salt and ice cubes to the disposal. Then let it run for a minute or so to thoroughly grind up the mixture. The gently abrasive nature of the rock salt mixture grinds away at any gunk, and salt is also naturally antibacterial. This helps to gently polish your blades, keeping them in tip-top condition. If you are having an odor problem, cut up a few lemon wedges and toss them in. Their peels are full of citric acid that can help clear up any weird odors.

To learn more about keeping your garbage disposal operating perfectly, turn to JW Plumbing, Heating and Air. Our team is happy to help with garbage disposal installations and repairs in Los Angeles. We do a variety of other plumbing services as well. We also provide HVAC repairs, installations and maintenance services. Schedule your appointment now by giving us a call.